An informal conversation and guide to the sometimes confusing world of volunteering.

5 Days

What would you do with five days of paid leave to use for volunteering?

NCVO have published a new manifestio which calls for all workers to be offered five days' paid leave each year to carry out volunteering roles.

I personally support this. TimeBank gives staff five days volunteering leave. I confess; I haven't used all mine up yet. But I will do.

Do you get paid leave for volunteering where you work?

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Uniting Women

Time TogetherA few of us from the communications team went to a book launch party last week for Action Aid.

The book of poems which can be bought online today to mark International Women's Day is a celebration of women and includes quotes by internationally famous women such as Carol Ann Duffy and Dame Judi Dench along with words from inspirational women from the developing world.

It's such a powerful way of bringing together the western and developing world, highlighting womens' strength, humor and hope but also the struggles that they face on a daily basis. Not just through poetry but women from different countries can be brought together through volunteering too - I'm lucky to be part of our Time Together project where I mentor a lovely female refugee from Iran.  

I've just been matched with her so I'm looking forward to getting to know her more, helping her reach her goals of perfecting her English and visiting the London sights so that she can understand our history and feel part of our society. It's also a fascinating way to learn more about Iran and their beautiful culture and traditions.

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A 6am start

alarm clock c laffy4kGetting up at 6am isn't good for me. Or so I thought.

Michelle (my TimeBank mate) and I went to The Passage on Tuesday morning to volunteer to serve breakfast to homeless people. I had a hard time staying away from the sausages and bacon but luckily I was kept busy buttering toast.

It gives you a wake up call (literally) getting even just a small glimpse into a homeless person's life and it made me realise how lucky I am. That might sound a bit naff but work has been so busy recently and I've even been moaning that I'm tired because of a few nights out.

So actually sometimes 6am starts can be good for you.

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Volunteering as Punishment

The other week I saw this post about an 11 your old girl who is being required to do six hours of "volunteer work" to get her free Oyster card back or else face a ban of one year.

There has been a lot of discussion around the increase in the use of community service.

Should something be referred to as volunteering if it's not entirely voluntary?

Apparently those that volunteer (especially at an early age) really enjoy it and go on to volunteer more as they go through life. Some agree with this "ends justifies the means" argument. Others don't.

What do you think? Is it OK to use the word volunteering when referring to punishment through community service?

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Donate a Day

AI logoFlicking through my Amnesty magazine this week I noticed that they've launched a volunteering scheme called 'Amnesty Hours'. You pledge 24 hours of your time over the course of a year to carry out tasks for which you can earn the charity a donation. So you help design a website, walk someone's dog or cook someone a meal and instead of paying you they donate the fee to Amnesty. Helping people in your community and raising money for a good cause - what's not to like?

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Fly the Great Britain flag for volunteering

London 20<img class=Has anyone been watching this year's Winter Olympics in Whistler - I tuned in for a bit last night and my thoughts turned to the amount of volunteers involved.

I did a quick bit of digging this morning and found out there are 25,000 people that are volunteering to help make the games a success. With London hosting the Olympics in 2012 I wonder how many people will get to complete their own Olympic dream to volunteer?

You can register your interest now to  be one of the 70,000 volunteers needed to volunteer at the games themselves. The application process opens early this Summer. But dont worry,  there are more ways us Brits can play our part in Olympic volunteering.

Volunteers are also needed to to meet and greet and welcome people into our capital so if you picture yourself as a bit of a tour guide and are quite clued up on the history of London then this type of volunteering could be for you.

The application process to be a 'Host City Volunteer' will open early next year and they need 65,000 volunteers, so keep your eyes peeled. But why wait? Part of volunteering at the London Olympics is to help showcase our country as an inspirational nation of volunteers. So what are you waiting for? Volunteer through us and we know you'll become addicted!

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Fashion Forward

Yuliya Libkina on flickrStill reeling from London Fashion Week?  Visions of becoming the next Vivienne Westwood?  Read on for some suggestions of how to get a foot in the door by volunteering in the wonderful world of fashion...

Crisis are looking for someone to help run a fashion design course at their Skylight activity centre for homeless people.  The closing date is 3rd March so jump to it if you're interested in applying!

You may remember Mary 'Queen of Shops' Portas revitalizing branches of Save the Children charity shops with her fashion-forward thinking.  Well now, alongside other retail roles the charity are looking for 'fashion volunteers' to help sort the Armanis from the Primarks.

And if you're in South London, Set Fashion Free is an initiative designed to engage young people in creative enterprise, fashion and black culture and identity.  They're looking for researchers, a web content manager and make up artists.

Fabulous, darlings!

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Beat it

Fist c Noel FearnIs Gordon Brown a bully? The debate continues. Whether he is or not there are bullies out there - you could help to crack this problem.

Become a volunteer counsellor with the NSPCC or if you're 18-25 you could volunteer as a cyber mentor for Beat Bullying - helping young people affected by bullying. At Action on Elder Abuse you could volunteer on their helpline or spread the word in your local area.

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